EPA calls for neonicotinoid information

13 August 2018

We are calling for information about three neonicotinoid pesticides to understand how and where they are being used within New Zealand.

The three are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. Neonicotinoid pesticides can harm bees and other pollinators if not used correctly.

Our move follows recently updated risk assessments published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in February 2018. 

“We believe some of the EFSA findings may be relevant to our New Zealand environment,” says Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter, General Manager of Hazardous Substances.

Neonicotinoids have been used in New Zealand for more than 20 years. We sets strict rules (also known as controls) around their application.

“To fully understand any potential new risks, it’s important that we gather data from across New Zealand.  Our aim is to build a detailed understanding that will help us ensure our environment and our pollinators remain fully protected,” says Dr Thomson-Carter.

“We are seeking specific evidence, from manufacturers, importers and industry users, on clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.

“We want to know how they’re being used, the frequency and scale of their use, and the specific mitigation measures that are being adopted on application. We’re keen to work closely with interested parties and stakeholders to gather that information. 

“It’s an extensive and critical piece of work which we estimate may take several months to collate,” adds Dr Thomson-Carter.

Manufacturers, importers and users have until 26 October 2018 to supply information. 

Further details can be found on our website.

Beekeepers are also encouraged to complete the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Colony Loss and Survival survey, which is being sent directly to registered beekeepers. The EPA also uses the results of the survey to understand bee health, losses and beekeeping practice.

European Food Safety Authority report and announcement.

EPA's call for information, and submission form

Additional information

Neonicotinoids are systemic insecticides. This means they move around plant tissues to protect the entire plant from insects.  They are used to control insects that can damage some fruit, ornamental, cereal and vegetable crops. They are also used as a seed treatment in maize or cereals (which are wind pollinated) to help crops become established.

How long have they been in use in New Zealand?

Neonicotinoids have been available for use in New Zealand and Australia for more than 20 years.  Like many chemicals in agricultural and general use, they come with risks as well as benefits.

Our role in managing neonicotinoids

We set strict controls (rules) around the use of neonicotinoids.  As New Zealand’s environmental regulator, part of our role is to consider any risks and to identify and put in place controls which if followed will help manage any risks to people, pollinators and our environment. As part of this we have developed a comprehensive pollinator strategy.

How we manage the risks from neonicotinoids to the environment and pollinators

We set rules around neonicotinoid use that include special measures solely to protect bees.  These rules include:

  • No spraying near hives.
  • No spraying on crops likely to be visited by bees, or when bees are foraging.
  • No spraying when flowering crops or weeds are present in the treated area.
  • Avoid spraying budding or flowering plants (this restriction means users cannot use neonicotinoids on plants that are in flower, or are going to flower soon).

The European Union’s position on neonicotinoids

In April 2018, an EU vote was passed which means that neonicotinoids can only be used as an insecticide in permanent greenhouses, or for the treatment of seeds intended to be used only in permanent greenhouses. As the resulting crop must stay within a permanent greenhouse during its entire life cycle, this effectively prohibits all outdoor uses of neonicotinoids.

The vote also made it explicit, that selling treated seed was prohibited, unless the seeds are intended to be used only in permanent greenhouses, and the resulting crop stays within a permanent greenhouse.

Why don't we simply ban the use of these neonicotinoids in New Zealand?

Neonicotinoids are regulated under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. Under the Act substances cannot simply be banned without going through a specific statutory process. We set strict rules (see above) that ensure the safe use and application of neonicotinoids. Our call for information will help us better understand how, when and where these rules are being applied and how effective they are. 

EPA process after the call for submissions

We have an open call seeking information until 26 October 2018, after which we will review the material provided and determine what the next steps are based on analysis of the information received. We will provide an update on this in the first quarter of 2019.

Who this call for information is aimed at

We know that many New Zealanders don’t support the use of neonicotinoids. This call for information is specifically aimed at manufacturers, importers and industry users who are best-placed to provide us with a clear picture of the amount of neonicotinoids being used, where, when and how, and the mitigation measures used to limit environmental exposure.